[Slowhand] From Layla to Lacerating

Almighty Geetarz almighty_geetarz at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 4 21:56:52 EDT 2004

Slowhand goes from 'Layla' to lacerating 

By Evan Pondel
Staff Writer 

The eyes of a rather seductive-looking woman are painted just above the fingerboard of Eric Clapton's guitar. 
His motions never interrupt her vantage point. She just stares ominously at the audience, guiding her frontman into a blue Monday evening at the Hollywood Bowl. 
As if one could grind coffee beans on the fret of a guitar, Clapton played the bitter blues with an occasional dollop of Cream to enhance the flavor. 
The "Hoochie Coochie Man" came to visit, as did "Layla" and a "Kind Hearted Woman." Clapton played with them all, delivering a two-hour set to a sold-out crowd of former hippies turned corporate executives. 
But no one cared that Clapton wore Nikes and a set of eye glasses a la Bill Gates. No one cared that JBL was draped on the ivy covered speakers throughout the Bowl. At least, no one did toward the end of the show. 
During the first half, the audience was tugging at its ears, unable to hear who shot the sheriff. Finally, a techie tweaked the sound and Clapton belted "I Shot the Sheriff." Alas, an accomplice. 
Not for long. 
Too much bass made people's hair stand on its end as "Me and the Devil" danced on stage. The microphone just wouldn't accept Clapton's throaty growl. Again, a techie tweaked the microphone. How soon the devil found his mojo. 
Harnessing that power, Clapton sat for an acoustic session showcasing his new album devoted to blues legend Robert Johnson. He gracefully strummed "Milkcow Calf's Blues," finding Johnson's voice in a lulling murmur that mesmerized the audience. 
Clapton's egalitarian ways then surfaced throughout the second half of the show. His fellow musicians drove their instruments beyond blue, each delivering performances that drew salt from tears. 
Pianist Billy Preston hit the keys so hard in "Have You Ever Loved a Woman," piano dust collected on his white shoes. His hand graced the keys once more, welcoming a rapturous applause from the audience. 
Nathan East on bass and Steve Gadd on drums did their own wailing. Except instead of coming across too strong, the two danced delicately as if the blues was meant to ooze from an instrument. 
"Wonderful Tonight" soon followed. 
A flare of lighters waved incandescently, couples began dancing, and much lip-syncing ensued. 
Then, there was "Cocaine." 
Lighters were replaced by waving hands, the audience began dancing in the aisles and the old long-haired Clapton appeared. 
For the fortunate few that arrived early to the Bowl, Robert Randolph played a stunning 30-minute set. Randolph certainly felt a bit neglected, affixing a "More Love" decal on the front of his pedal-steel guitar. 
His rabid energy gave the audience a quick jolt of blues, sending chills into the prairie grass atop the Bowl. His presence wasn't forsaken, as Clapton invited the cat on stage for the encore of "Sunshine of Your Love" and "Got Your Mojo Workin'." 
At the end of the set, Clapton and his band mates embraced. A resounding warmth was spread throughout the Hollywood Hills. And the seductive woman above Clapton's fingerboard was put to rest in an evening so, so blue. 
Evan Pondel, (818) 713-3662 evan.pondel at dailynews.com

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